Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen becomes latest GOP chairman to retire

New Jersey Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, announced Monday he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Frelinghuysen’s announcement comes as about three dozen other Republican members and a host of other House chairmen have announced their retirements or plans to run for other offices outside of Congress amid speculation that the 2018 midterms could be a wave election for Democrats.

“Today as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service,” Frelinghuysen said in his statement.

The New Jersey congressman faced a tough re-election bid in 2018 and Republicans had long been worried that Frelinghuysen would retire. But as recently as last week, GOP aides had become more optimistic that he would seek re-election, saying they’d grown less troubled by his fundraising and his staff had become more engaged ahead of a tough re-election battle.

Democrats are running a prized recruit in the Northern New Jersey district in Mikie Sherrill, a former Naval helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor.

Frelinghuysen had voted against the House’s tax bill in 2017 much to the frustration of some House conservatives. The vote had been viewed as highly controversial for a powerful chairman. In his announcement, Frelinghuysen pledged to continue his term as chairman. Unlike other GOP chairmen who had announced their retirement Frelinghuysen was not term limited in his position on the appropriations panel.

“As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, this past year I have had a singular focus on ‘getting our work done,'” Frelinghuysen said in his statement. “We completed 12 appropriations bill left over from 2017, we passed all 2018 bills in record time through regular order, and three Disaster Supplementals Appropriations bills, historic in scope, and the expediency with which we acted to help our fellow citizens. In my remaining year as chairman, I am determined to finish the FY18 bills and pass our FY19 bills through regular order.”

In his continued role in appropriations, Frelinghuysen is in a key position for negotiations in an upcoming fight in spending caps.